Glossary of Terms


Academic integrity (noun): refers, broadly, to the self-regulating practice of conducting oneself with honesty and openness in all aspects of intellectual life; this includes respecting the originality of scholars’ ideas and giving intellectual credit where credit is due; this also means refusing to engage in acts of plagiarism, misrepresentation, or cheating; finally, in the university context, this demands that students take responsibility for understanding university and discipline-specific policies regarding the proper acknowledgement of intellectual sources and the repercussions of academic misconduct.

See also “academic misconduct,” “intellectual credit” and “plagiarism.”

Academic misconduct (noun): an act, whether committed willfully or in ignorance, that violates the principles of academic integrity and openness; most often, academic misconduct arises when intellectual credit goes improperly acknowledged within submitted work. At Laurier, academic misconduct includes any “act by a student, or by students working on a team project, which may result in a false evaluation of the student(s), or which represents an attempt to unfairly gain an academic advantage, where the student either knew or ought reasonably to have known that it was misconduct” (Laurier Student Code of Conduct and Discipline 12.2.II).

See also “academic integrity,” “intellectual credit” and “plagiarism.”

Argument (noun): the prime contention or postulation within a scholarly work; a persuasive summary of the central claim and/or line of reasoning to be addressed within a work; smaller supporting arguments, explained using evidence and examples, can clarify and reinforce the central argument.

See also “claim,” “main point” and “thesis.”

Assignment type (noun): a category of (usually) written task distinguishable by its particular generic characteristics and rhetorical purpose. Common assignment types at the university level include the comparative essay, the research paper, the literature review, the response paper, the book review, etc. Each type of assignment has a specific rhetorical purpose – that is, a persuasive organizing principle that dictates its form (how the assignment is structured), content (the substance and scope of the written material), and style (the level of diction, for example).

Different assignment types demand different rhetorical approaches from the writer; this means, for instance, that while a research paper will certainly need a clearly articulated thesis and a good deal of solid primary and secondary evidence, a response paper may require that you discuss your opinion on an issue and cite personal experience as your primary evidence.

See also “audience,” “conventions,” “form,” “genre” and “organizing structures.”

Audience (noun): your imagined or intended readers; the people to whom you are addressing your assignment. At the university level, audience most often refers to your instructors and peers but also includes a broader academic readership within the immediate and related disciplines.

See also “disciplinary community” and “authorial voice.”

Authorial Voice (noun): the unique expression of a particular author’s ideas in written form; voice refers to the distinctive qualities and rhetorical choices that make an author’s writing unique and evident to the reader; voice is intimately linked to tone, which broadly refers to the writer’s attitude toward the topic and audience, and mood, which can be understood as an affective aspect of tone that works to evoke a particular atmosphere or feeling within a written work. Establishing your authorial voice is important because it gives your writing credibility and authority (ethos), sustains the text’s direction and reason (logos), and appeals to your readers on an affective or emotional level (pathos). Greek philosopher Aristotle theorized that these three main forms of rhetoric provide the basis of a persuasive argument.

See also “audience.”


Bibliographic Entry (noun): a descriptive notation which records in a consistent, shortened form the basic identifying information for source materials used within an academic work; the identifying information for each source usually includes title, author’s name, place and date of publication, and publisher; the style of bibliographic entry varies depending on the method of documentation (i.e., MLA, APA, etc.), but entries are generally organized alphabetically at the end of a text in the form of a bibliography, references, or list of works cited.

See also “citation,” “direct quotation,” “documentation,” “integration of source material,” “primary source,” “secondary source” and “source material.”

Block Quote (noun): a lengthy direct quotation off-set within the text by indentation on both the left and right-hand sides; quotation marks are usually omitted. Different styles of documentation specify different lengths and conventions for block quotation, so check your style guide for details.

See also “bibliographic entry,” “citation,” “direct quotation,” “source material” and “quotation marks.”


Citation (noun): a formal reference embedded within a scholarly text which refers readers to source material; citations can refer to both primary and secondary material, and print or non-print sources; the practice of citing source material.

See also “direct quotation,” “documentation,” “integration of source material” and “source material.”

Claim (noun): a sentence that asserts something that may or may not be true. Claims form the basis of arguments and must be supported with evidence. In the context of a question, a claim is an answer, while in the context of a problem, it is a solution. Booth, Colomb, and Williams write that a claim is “the sentence that sums up the results of your research” (110).

See also “argument,” “thesis,” “main point” and "research question.”

Compilation or Collection (noun): an edited volume, in book or journal form, of collected written works on a single topic by several different authors; collected works are usually divided thematically into individual chapters or articles within the larger volume and an introductory chapter or essay is often appended by the volume’s editor(s). Compilations may gather essays on very broad themes (such as the edited volumes Essays on Shakespeare and The Bioethics Reader) or on quite specific topics (such as the edited volume, Joy in Mudville: Essays on Baseball and American Life).

See also “monograph.”

Contextualize (verb): to establish the context for arguments and information presented within a scholarly work; to situate an idea, concept, or a group of ideas in relation to others; to make explicit the relationships (concrete and abstract, temporal and spatial) between ideas, events, or forms of cultural production.

The contextualization of primary and secondary source material is central to the development of a clear and persuasive scholarly text: it explains to the reader why specific evidence has been selected (what purpose does it serve?) and determines the meaning this evidence bears under analysis in the present work (what does it tell us?).

See also “argument,” “claim,” “integration of source material,” “scholarly conversation” and “synthesis.”

Conventions (in Writing) (noun): the established and widespread practice of undertaking a certain aspect of the academic writing process; the demonstration of this practice in a text. Conventions may be explicit or implicit.

See also “disciplinary community.”

Critically Evaluate (verb): to examine and judge with a critical eye; to raise questions, entertain doubts, and consider alternatives to the information or approach offered; to test authoritative claims to knowledge against alternative evidence or approaches and interpret the results.

See also “significance.”


Database Hit (noun): refers, in computer use, to a successful match between the search terms you have entered and the information retrieved by a database search engine (such as an online library catalogue or Google).

See also “source material.”

Direct Quotation (noun): the word-for-word citing of source material, indicated by use of quotation marks; the original location (page number, website, etc.) of the quotation within the source must be clearly noted in your text, and the full source must appear as a bibliographic entry in your paper’s list of works cited.

See also “block quote,” “bibliographic entry,” “citation,” “source material” and “quotation marks.”

Disciplinary Community (noun): the scholars and students who study and conduct research within a certain discipline and are united by a shared interest in and commitment to the intellectual pursuits and scholarly practices of that discipline.

Scholarship within a specific academic field (such as anthropology, history, biology, or business and economics, etc.) is most often intended for and addressed to fellow members of the relevant disciplinary community; this is usually made evident in a scholarly text’s use of discipline-specific conventions, such as the choice of genre (the research paper, the case study, etc.), evidence (statistical data, a work of visual art, etc.), and style of documentation (MLA, APA, etc.).

Disciplinary communities are, by definition, diverse in their membership (encompassing people of varying levels of experience) and broad in their geographic and institutional scope (reaching beyond national borders and specific places).

See also “audience,” “conventions,” “documentation” and “genre.”

Documentation (noun): the practice of referencing, in a consistent form, the basic identifying information regarding all source materials cited within a scholarly work. Proper academic documentation is comprised of two parts: an in-text (usually parenthetical) or foot/end-noted citation within the body of the text, plus a bibliographic entry at the end of the text within a complete list of all works cited.

Academic documentation methods can take several forms depending upon the disciplinary community, format, and venue in which you are writing. Documentation methods tend, however, to be conventional within particular disciplines: the humanities, for example, tend to use MLA (Modern Languages Association) format while the social sciences often use APA (American Psychological Association) or Chicago styles.

See also “bibliographic entry,” “citation”disciplinary community,” “integration of source material,” “intellectual credit,” “plagiarism” and “source material.”


Form (noun):

  1. The structural and functional characteristics of any specific written work – that is, the way in which a text is “put together”; this meaning of form encompasses the structure of the text at the sentence (syntax) and paragraph levels, as well as the logic and organization of information and argument across the text as a whole.
  2. A category or type of written text, in a similar sense as genre, such as a novel, journal article, position piece, lab report, etc.

See also “assignment type,” “conventions,” “genre” and “organizing structures.”


Genre (noun): a recurring social action involving a literate form (e.g., a review of a book, an analysis of a policy); a recurring type or category of text; a system of classification applied to written texts (literature, academic prose, business writing, etc.) and non-written forms of communication (film, music, television programs, etc.), which is defined by common formal, thematic, and contextual criteria. Everyday genres in popular culture include, for instance, the detective novel, the spy film, classical music, and reality TV.

As a genre, academic writing across many disciplines adheres to such generic criteria as:

  • The use of non-narrative prose to express ideas and arguments;
  • The organization of the text around a core argument, thesis, main point or question;
  • The aim to persuade the audience using appropriate evidence, presented and/or cited within the text;
  • The aim to inform the audience using specific data and/or information, presented and/or cited within the text;
  • A three-part rhetorical appeal to the audience consisting of establishing 1) the credibility of the writer (ethos), 2) the logic of the argument (logos), and 3) the emotional or affective aspects of the topic (pathos);
  • The use of elevated tone (relative formality and absence of slang or familiarity: the author, situated at a distance from the text, addresses an assumed academic audience);
  • Clear, precise diction (carefully chosen words); and
  • Discipline-specific and dense (meaning-laden) terms (referred to, in a pejorative sense, as “jargon”).

Much academic writing can be generically classified as formal academic prose. It is important to learn the appropriate generic criteria which define lucid academic writing in particular disciplines in order to develop and demonstrate the ability to express complex ideas in clear written form. Learning and exercising generic criteria will also enable you to participate in the academic community by articulating your ideas via the shared conventions of scholarly writing.

One way to learn the defining generic features of formal academic prose is to read widely both within your discipline and across disciplines. Take a look at journal articles and books from several fields to see what this scholarly writing has in common and on what points it differs; note the rhetorical moves that make texts clear and accessible; note which moves are permissible or absent. In your own writing and revision processes, make a point of imitating the rhetorical strategies that you have admired and appreciated as a reader of academic writing.

See also “assignment type,” “conventions,” “form” and “organizing structures.”


Hypothesis (noun): a propositional statement laying out an expected outcome or event that is subsequently tested and evaluated; in the sciences, a hypothesis arises out of a research question and provides the impetus for an experiment or research study (e.g., We expect that after studying for six hours, the students will recall most of the lecture material).

A null hypothesis proposes that no difference or outcome is expected to be seen following investigation or that the outcome seen may be due to chance; it is the default corollary to a hypothesis statement and is necessary for statistical testing (e.g., There will be no difference in recall between those students who study for six hours and those who study a typical, shorter time.)

See also “research question.”


Integration of Source Material (noun): the process of using and embedding source material within a written text in order to provide evidence for points of argument and/or situate your text in relation to broader scholarly conversations; integration may take the form of a direct quotation, summary, or paraphrase and is always cited within the text.

In addition to providing evidence, the integration of source material allows you to demonstrate that you have understood, assimilated and reframed the ideas of others into your own line of thinking and argumentation.

See also “citation,” “contextualize,” “source material” and “scholarly conversation.”

Intellectual Credit (noun): the clearly stated acknowledgement of ideas and intellectual contributions to their proper author(s); the attribution of scholarship to its creators, usually in the form of a citation and/or the inclusion of authors’ names and point of perspective in relation to the broader scholarly conversation on a certain topic.

For example, “In his recent book Revolution Backwards, Marxist historian Hubert Guillard argues that the French Revolution offers a dangerous example to present-day political movements.”3

The above example gives credit to the scholar’s idea by naming the individual, the title of his book, and by including a footnote to cite the page on which this argument is made; this example also contextualizes Guillard’s argument by naming his disciplinary perspective (history) and theoretical approach (Marxist).

See also “academic integrity,” “academic misconduct,” “citation,” “documentation” and “scholarly conversation.”


Journal Article (noun): a work of original scholarship, usually of moderate length, appearing in a serialized academic journal; most articles can be categorized as 1) descriptions of empirical research, 2) explorations of theoretical concepts or methodology, or 3) review or opinion (“state of the field”) pieces.

Articles published in the humanities and many social sciences tend to have single or dual authors, while those published in the sciences will often have multiple authors.

Many journal articles are peer-reviewed – that is, vetted by experts in the field to ensure the rigour of the research – before being published and can therefore provide an assurance of quality material on a specific topic. A thorough database, such as Scholars Portal, notes if a journal article has been peer-reviewed, and many journals are ranked for their levels of influence as demonstrated by citation frequencies of their published articles.

See also “monograph” and “disciplinary community.”


Main Point (noun): the organizing point of discussion about a topic to which all provided information and evidence in a text relates; it differs from a “claim,” “thesis” and an “argument” in its level: i.e., it is not simply a major point, nor does it necessarily offer a postulation or summarize the key elements of the case in point. Rather, the main point can be regarded as the response to the question, why has this text on topic X been written?

See also “organizing structures.”

Monograph (noun): a substantial scholarly text written on a single topic by a sole author.

See also “compilation or collection.”


Organizing Structures (noun): the overarching or guiding rhetorical approaches and framework that give a written text its particular form (e.g. an argument, a laboratory report); the “themes” or recurring rhetorical strategies which characterize a work at both the formal and conceptual levels.

The organizing structures of a scholarly work are often dictated by genre or assignment type (what sort of text is it?) as well as a work’s objective in argument or presentation of information (why has it been written?).

See also “form,” “genre,” “main point” and “structure.”

Outline (noun): a written plan that summarizes in shorthand the broad trajectory of your paper’s argument, including its anticipated key supporting points and evidence.

See also “research strategy.”


Paraphrase (verb): to restate ideas and information in your own words; to reproduce the contents of source material while demonstrating your understanding of the ideas being paraphrased.

See also “direct quotation,” “integration of source material” and “summary.”

Plagiarism (noun): the unacknowledged appropriation of another’s work; the willful or ignorant representation of someone else’s words, ideas, or images as one’s own work.

See also “academic integrity” and “academic misconduct.”

Primary Source (noun): source material that is closest to the ideas, concepts, people, places, and time periods under study; for historians, a primary source is, for example, a first-hand account of an actual historical event (such as an aristocrat’s diary from the French Revolution); for literary and film scholars, primary sources include the text of a novel and the images of a film; for scientists, primary sources include experimental and empirical data reports.

See also “secondary source.”


Quotation Marks (noun): punctuation marks used in pairs to signal a direct quotation from source material (e.g. “Such as this.”).

See also “block quote” and “citation.”


Research Question (noun): a statement in question form that concisely identifies the main point(s) which you will aim to examine or address in the assignment.

See also “argument,” “claim,” “main point” and “thesis.”

Research Strategy (noun): a kind of blueprint or map that guides you in the collection and evaluation of relevant sources and evidence to answer your research question; useful in indicating the foundations for an outline of your paper.

See also “outline" and “research question.”


Scholarly Conversation (noun): a perspective towards academic writing in which the understanding and presentation of an academic argument is seen as “a lively conversation with amiable colleagues […] in which you and your imagined readers cooperatively explore an issue that you both think is important to resolve” (Booth, Colomb, Williams 106).

The job of the academic writer in this context is to demonstrate the ways in which new ideas and arguments participate in the existing scholarly discourse on a given topic – that is, the writer must join the conversation by acknowledging what has already been said and now demonstrating what remains to be done.

See also “disciplinary community.”

Secondary Source (noun): a document (such as a book or article) that considers, interprets, and analyzes information, evidence, and arguments relating to an original or primary source. For example, a secondary source in the field of writing studies is an edited book entitled The Handbook of Writing Research (2006) because the scholars in this book have compiled data, reports, and articles from the existing scholarship in the field in order to draw new and timely conclusions on various topics of interest.

See also “primary source” and “source material.”

Seminal Work (noun): a scholarly or critical contribution regarded as groundbreaking in its findings and/or methodology; in subsequent scholarly works, it is cited frequently and represented as central to the critical discourse within a specific field and/or a cluster of disciplines.

Seminal scholarship reveals itself most markedly through citation practices within ensuing scholarship: examine footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies for those scholars and works consistently cited over a significant period of time.

See also “citation,” “disciplinary community” and “scholarly conversation.”

Significance (noun): an evaluation or account of the broad disciplinary and, more widely, intellectual, social, cultural or political implications of a particular claim, topic, or line of argument. By discussing the larger impact of your topic, you provide readers with motivation and reason to continue reading your text and consider your points. That is, demonstrating significance motivates critical readers to care about the topic and to think about its intellectual and everyday implications.

Note that in the sciences and social sciences, significance carries an additional and specific meaning related to statistical testing (statistical significance), so students in these faculties should exercise caution in using this term.

See also "argument" and “main point.”

Source Material (noun): the primary and secondary evidence collected and examined through research in order to construct and support an evidence-based scholarly work; depending on the nature of the discipline and the research project, source material may take several forms: primary evidence may include, for instance, a particular literary text, archival documents, a report of an experiment, or a film, while secondary evidence may include scholarly publications such as research reviews, critical articles and books, or a newspaper editorial. Tertiary sources (which are used most often in the initial phases of research and infrequently included as source materials) include textbooks, encyclopedias, and reference catalogues.

See also “compilation or collection,” “editorial,” “journal article,” “monograph,” “primary source,” “secondary source” and “seminal work.”

Structure (noun): refers, broadly, to the ways in which a text is “put together” at both the macro and micro levels: “macro” here means the organization of the entire text, of sections, of paragraphs, of large points of discussion, while “micro” refers to the construction of and relationship between sentences.

Structure is closely related to “form.” See also “assignment type,” “conventions,” “genre” and “organizing structures.”

Subordination (noun):

  1. In argument: to establish a hierarchal relationship between ideas; to place ideas in hierarchal relation to each other based on importance
  2. Grammatical: to establish a hierarchal relationship between a main clause and a subordinate or dependent clause in order to convey the relative importance of ideas. Use different subordinating conjunctions (e.g., although, because, if, when, etc.) to indicate this relationship, and move from obvious or established statements to new and more complex ideas. For example: Although [self-evident statement], [new point/idea].”

See also "argument" and “structure.”

Summary (noun): a condensed account of a specific primary or secondary source which identifies the main points, explains the logic that connects the core ideas of that source, and/or evaluates its contribution; a summary maintains the emphases of the original source and avoids distorting or misrepresenting ideas.

See also “direct quotation,” “integration of source material,” “paraphrase” and “source material.”

Synthesis (noun) (verb: to synthesize): the act of combining evidence to generate revealing results; this means testing a thesis or postulation against contradictory or complicating evidence (the anti-thesis) and analyzing the outcome (synthesis).

More broadly, synthesis refers to the process of uniting and analyzing large amounts of information and/or evidence within organizing concepts or themes.

See also "argument,” “contextualize” and “thesis.”


Thesis (noun): a postulation or argument, in the form of a sentence, that offers a contestable claim in response to a specific research topic or question and indicates reasons for its feasibility.

See also “argument,” “claim,” “main point” and “research question.”